Traverse City Prospects Notebook: Leafs’ Easton Cowan impresses

Stanislav Svozil scored the eventual winner on the powerplay as the Columbus Blue Jackets took down the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-3 in the prospect tournament.

The NHL pre-season is underway! Day one of the Traverse City prospects tournament, hosted by the Detroit Red Wings, is in the books.

I will be providing daily scouting reports on players from the tournament, so here are some of my observations out of the first day, where Columbus beat Toronto 7-3 and Dallas beat Detroit 4-2.


Toronto has been in win now mode for several seasons now and so have spent much of their draft capital to bolster their NHL roster. The result is a prospects team that has only one first-round pick on the roster and three second-round picks.

Another observation is the stature of this group of forwards. Only Fraser Minten, Matthew Knies, and camp invite Jacob Frasca stand over six feet tall. Comparatively, the Columbus Blue Jackets dressed nine forwards over six feet. It’s interesting to observe the different strategies teams take to build out their roster.

Fraser Minten, 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, left shot forward
Drafted 38th overall in 2022

Minten was arguably the Leafs’ best player on the first day. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward was involved in the play in all three zones and emptied the tank every shift. He had some bump to his game, battled along the wall to extend plays, and ventured to the net looking for rebounds and tips. Minten was used in all situations. He blocked shots in the defensive zone and had a shorthanded breakaway in the second period. In my opinion he played with the most detail and compete of any Leaf player.

Topi Niemela, 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, right shot defenceman
Drafted 64th overall in 2022

The good news is Niemela was excellent in the offensive zone. He was confident making plays on the blue line. He was deceptive and scored the Leafs’ second goal when he joined the rush late and found a puck outside the Blue Jackets crease for the tuck.

His game was far from perfect in the defensive zone, however. Niemela gives up size and weight in the trenches. He needs to be more creative with his approach and utilize his quickness to jump to space before his opponent. His puck management in his own zone will need to improve.

Easton Cowan, 5-foot-10, 171 pounds, left shot forward
Drafted 28th overall in 2023

Cowan centred a line between Roni Hirvonen and Ryan Tverberg, a unit that was the most consistently involved line for the Leafs. The three forwards complemented each other with their approach. They play a relentless style with plenty of secondary push back. When they didn’t have the puck, they worked to create turnovers.

Cowan, specifically, impressed me. He wasn’t the least bit intimidated skating in his first rookie game. He appears to have found an extra gear in transition, too. When a skating lane opened up he took full advantage and found ways to get the edge on his zone entries and take pucks to the net.

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The Jackets have some players at this event who will challenge for NHL jobs in the coming weeks. They have a huge team here in Traverse City. The group complements each other with a combination of size, grit, speed and skill.

Adam Fantilli, 6-foot-2, 194-pounds, left shot forward
Drafted third overall in 2023

Fantilli played to his identity versus Toronto. When the ice opened up, he took full advantage. He attacked with speed, backing off Toronto defenders in the process and creating chances for his teammates supporting the play. Fantilli ended the game with two assists and by my count he had three quality scoring chances in high danger areas. His fitness looks great and it appears he’s found yet another gear, which is impressive considering he was already a quick and fast skater overall.

Dmitri Voronkov, 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, left shot forward
Drafted 114th overall in 2019

As weird as it sounds, Voronkov appears bigger than his listed 6-foot-4, 190 pounds. I stood at ice level for much of the game and he towered over Matthew Knies from the Leafs. Voronkov might be 6-foot-4, 190, but he looks more like 215 pounds.

Voronkov played centre in the KHL for AK Bars Kazan, but he transitioned nicely to the wing versus Toronto. He plays to his strengths. From the hash marks down in the offensive zone he extends plays by boxing out opponents with his frame. When he sets himself as a screen, out front of the crease, he’s hard to move out of space. I’m monitoring his small area quickness on the North American ice surface, but there’s no doubt he’s a power forward on projection.


Dallas has a group of prospects who appear to be pulling in the same direction. They give me the impression they know their roles and play to their strengths. The Stars have been hovering around contender status with their NHL team, but they also have a nice stock of developing players on the horizon. The Stars have two first-round picks, four second-rounders, and two third-round picks on their roster at this tournament.

Logan Stankoven, 5-foot-7, 170 pounds, right shot forward
Drafted 47th overall in 2021

Stankoven played the middle between Matej Blumel and Kamloops teammate Matthew Seminoff. I appreciate the effort Stankoven brings every time he hits the ice. He was used at even strength and on the power play. Stankoven is difficult to defend. He’s sturdy/strong and his small area escape ability keeps opponents on their toes. It seemed like he had the puck on his stick every shift. His size is not an issue.

Lian Bichsel, 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, left shot defenceman
Drafted 18th overall in 2022

Bichsel continues to impress me with his skating ability because he moves very well for a big man. His combined quickness and long reach interrupts the play in the defensive zone and extend plays in the offensive zone. He’s also not shy about closing the gap and finishing his checks. He played to his identity.

His game wasn’t perfect however. Bichsel needs to identify his options more quickly at times. There were instances where he thought he had more time to outlet than he actually did, leading to some turnovers or extended defensive zone time. The smaller ice in North America will take some time for him to adjust to.


The tournament hosts had their chances versus Dallas on day one, but couldn’t find the tying goal late. Steve Yzerman’s team has been rebuilding. As a result they have three first-round picks (Marco Kasper, Sebastian Cossa, and Nate Danielson) and four second-round picks (William Nylander, Antti Tuomisto, Andrew Gibson, and Cross Hanus) on their roster.

Elmer Soderblom, 6-foot-8, 246 pounds, left shot forward
Drafted 159th overall in 2019

In my opinion Soderblom won the “player of the day” award after his effort versus Dallas. He was an absolute horse. He scored the Wings’ first goal off a corner crease tip, and had too many chances to count overall. I’m not exaggerating when I say Soderblom looked out of place for the right reasons — he appears prepared to challenge for an NHL roster spot. His puck touch has improved immensely as he’s matured as a player. He extends plays with his size and length and makes several subtle plays that have to be monitored closely to be appreciated.

Marco Kasper, 6-foot-1, 183 pounds, left shot forward
Drafted eighth overall in 2022

Kasper played centre and didn’t look out of place in the role, and has traditionally shown he can play both the wing and the middle. His movement was NHL worthy. He played quick and fast. I appreciate he tracked back the full 200 feet and pressured the puck up ice as F1 trying to create turnovers.

What concerns me is the look of his game offensively. For all the motion, effort, and detail, he didn’t have many looks at the net or handle the puck off the rush making plays. I’m wondering if he is going to be more of a 3F than a top-six scoring forward at the NHL level.

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